This continues the series on essential qualities of a spiritual leader as taken from J. Oswald Sanders’ book, Spiritual Leadership.

He begins this quality by saying, “Our sense of humor is a gift from God that should be controlled as well as cultivated” (p.65). Note the two words controlled and cultivated. I had to learn the former (and am still learning it!) very early. I was leading a team in South America for a year and found that my humor endeared me to the students I was trying to serve, but it also served to flatten any kind of call I might make for us to pursue holiness and godliness. It wasn’t to the degree of course joking, but it was oftentimes a proliferation of flippant words. So when I would joke about something, I would get a lot of laughs and light up the room. Everyone seemed to be following. . .

Then I would try to shift the conversation to something of more value, “How are you doing?” “What are your struggles?” “How can I help?” But there was an awkward disconnect because the inertia of silliness had set in. It seemed unnatural to move into the inner chambers of the person’s life when I had just been window dressing. Like the gardener who assumes he can trapse in the house and begin to polish the silver.

In an effort to move into the heart, I began to eschew humor. Like most pendulum swings, it didn’t help. It merely made me so intense that life became a show. Almost as if people were on edge because they didn’t know if a bomb of piety were about to drop. Like the dower butler who can’t smile.

Sanders provides one good test for us: “A good test of the appropriateness of a joke is whether the humor controls us or we control it” (p.67).

Don’t discount humor. I once heard a comedian say that the first step to acceptance of an idea is laughter. Leader, if you can’t laugh, nor make others comfortable with your ability to laugh at your foibles, I would adjure you to lighten up. Leader, if you can’t polish the silver because you’ve got compost all over your face, I would adjure you to wash up. Consider that the ability to laugh and to refrain from laughter stems from the fruit of the Spirit–namely, self-control.

May God help all of us jovial jocks to have sobriety and have a good knee-slapper.

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Leading with a Limp

Jacob left Peniel, and he was limping because of the injury to his hip (Gen. 32.31; NLT)

Too many times we focus on the action of leadership and not the ontology of the leader. That is, when asked to define what a leader is, most people’s responses are boiled down to “They lead.” This is what a leader does. This is not what he is.

In my experience, the most important characteristic of a leader is humility. True, a proud and overly confident leader may get the pin to move on the measuring gauge. In the long run, however, her leadership will lose its effectiveness over time. What is more, those who follow her will not be shaped. The primary goal of a Christian leader is to shape the whole person, to see people mature and grow in their love for God and neighbor. If they are coerced or pressed into a mold of conformity, their hearts will not be changed because a law has been imposed on them.

Leaders ought to want to see people changed more than a goal to be reached. Or put another way, the goal to which a leader aims ought to be Christ being formed in those that follow him. This is the metric we see throughout Scripture. This, then, ought to be our goal in leadership. this Christ-likeness

The primary way a leader promotes this Christ-likeness is through his own Christ-likeness. And what do we see in the Lion of Judah save the wounded Lamb.

I remember going through a pastoral assessment wherein the interviewers looked at me and said they weren’t sure that I had worked through past pain. This is after I had shared with these brothers a lot of hurt and told them how the Lord had drawn near in those times. Surely, there is some time that people need to work through their pain. This is, however, a first world problem. How many other brothers and sisters don’t have the luxury to go to a year of counseling or to step out of a painful ministry experience?

No, we are called to minister not after our wounds are healed but in the midst of our wounds. We are called to show the scars and still feel the cold breath of unrequited loves and expectations. This is where we ought to live and minister from. We ought not to hide our limp. We ought to highlight the fact that we lean on another. We are frail. We fail. When we model that kind of bold dependence on God, we, in essence, reveal that we are but pilgrims moving toward another country and the path is hard and the pain is real. Not something we learned from and not something got over–as though it’s something in the past. Rather, the pain and problems ought to be the very stuff our ministry’s are made of.

There is a “ME” in “TEAM”

Too often we equate team with the concept of losing ourselves in the group. As if in some way you blend into this amorphous blob of reality.

The best All teams are made of individuals. The best teams are made of individuals who own their unabashedly own their individuality and seek to serve others by being themselves. Too many teams I have been on conform to the path of least resistance. The team member was afraid to call out a bad decision (or indecision!) The team leader was afraid to welcome dissension or be himself–since he had to give off a certain aura that no one else saw but him.

There is no “i” in “team”–that’s bad spelling, unless you are transliterating it into Spanish as “tim” (and that’s just silly).

The sooner you own the fact that there is an individual. There is a “me” in “team”…you just have to find it.

Stick Out Your Tongue

Some of you may have already seen this video milling about on the internet, but I wanted to share with you just in case and, perhaps, pull out a few pieces to reflect on.

B&A HAKA from Westone Productions on Vimeo.

  1. Community

This video shows the power of community in an unparalleled way. The rhythms of the stomping and beating of the chest show you that this group of men and women are unified. This kind of unity is rare in our self-identifying culture. Sure, we can choose whether we are going to be goth, emo, or any other flavor of the generation. But how many of us own the group to which we were born into? This submission to identifying with who you had no choice to identify with provides a freedom and identity for us that no amount of make-up or dress could provide for us. I remember I went through multiple phases of identity growing up. It wasn’t until I owned who I was born to be that I found great freedom.

2. Acceptance

As the group approaches the couple, I find myself intimidated for the groom! At root of this approach is the burning question, “Do I have what it takes?” If you haven’t asked yourself this question, you will…or you have an inordinate amount of self-confidence.

3. Stick Your Tongue Out

One of the most awkward things I found to get used to was a very strange thing to cringe at–the prevalence of sticking your tongue out. It’s not something I do regularly, nor those I spend time with. In fact, it is at that initial point of tongue wagging that most may say, “How strange!” and stop the video.

Once we have owned who we are, there will come a time we have to unabashedly own who we are. It will look strange and be misunderstood. How many movies have the cathartic moment when the person who has been covering up who he or she is (typically something to be ashamed of–like being poor), when this person owns it and reveals herself. How liberating!

Own who you are. Hit your chest and be accepted as the world looks on. Stick out your tongue.